May 29, 2024

Law firm brings expertise in community associations to Western NY

Home / Law firm brings expertise in community associations to Western NY

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When Marc Schneider finished law school, he hadn’t settled on a specific area of practice.

That’s why his first job was with a small firm in Manhattan that handled a variety of legal matters.

SB_Marc“It wasn’t the highest-paying job, probably the opposite, but I took it because it was a general practice firm that had a bit of a litigation tilt, and I realized I would learn a lot,” Schneider said.

That introduction to the real world prepared him for his own practice, but he actually found his calling while volunteering on the community association board for his co-op on Long Island.

Once he was allowed to join the board, that is.

“They got my application,” Schneider said, “and there were five board members and four of them said, ‘Why are we going to approve this guy? He’s got so much student loan debt, how is he going to pay it back?’ ”

One member, however, persuaded the others to take a chance.

“He told them, ‘First of all, he’s a lawyer so I’m sure he’ll pay it back, but secondly, we need a lawyer on the board.’ He convinced them to accept me and less than a year later they made me board president.”

Not long after, Schneider launched a law firm dedicated to representing community associations, and he recently expanded into Upstate New York, opening offices in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.

Schneider Buchel LLP focuses almost exclusively on representation of homeowner and co-op associations. Among the tasks undertaken by the firm: taking legal action against association members that haven’t paid common charges or assessments; reworking governing documents; completing contracts for snow removal, landscaping and repaving; and handling issues with residents who make property alternations that aren’t allowed.

“I realize as a board member what our clients want and need,” said Schneider, managing partner of the firm. “I know what it’s like to sit at that board table, doing this at night as a volunteer with limited time.

“There are a lot of law firms that consider themselves real estate lawyers, there are a lot of law firms that may have somebody within that handles community associations. But there are very few that focus almost exclusively on community associations. We have a litigation department, we have a foreclosure department, we have a landlord-tenant department for co-ops. We have skilled attorneys, and that’s all they do all day.”

Schneider said expansion into Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse was a logical step for growth. He estimated there are around 200 community associations in the Rochester area.

“We provide a place for full service,” he said. “A community association doesn’t have to say, ‘I gotta find a guy that does the contract, I gotta find a litigator with a different firm.’ We handle everything.”

And because it’s all they do, they’re well-versed in methods and approaches for getting results. Maybe it’s filing a lien with the threat of foreclosure for a non-paying association member. Maybe it’s ensuring payments for missed fees also include interest, as allowed by association contracts.

“Let’s say you had a heart condition; you wouldn’t look for the general practitioner, you would look for a cardiologist,” Schneider said. “And when you look for the cardiologist, you wouldn’t look for the cheapest, you’d look for the best. It’s the same thing here. You want firms that specialize because they provide the best level of service.”

He said community associations often spend considerable time ensuring compliance among members. That’s why his firm continues to grow.

“There are always people that don’t pay their common charges and assessments,” said Schneider, who is also president of Community Associations Institute — Western New York Chapter. “And the thing to consider: if your budget is based on 20 people paying the common charges but now two are not paying it, the other 18 have to make up the difference.

“If they don’t take any action, then they have a budget that is essentially based on 18, which means everyone pays more. The faster you take action and the faster you collect money, the better off you are.”

Kevin Oklobzija
koklobzija@bridgetowermedia.com / (585) 653-4020

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